Deputy Chief of Mission David Lindwall’s OpEd on World Media Freedom Day (May 3, 2015)

Free Media Equals Positive Change
May 3, 2015

Today, May 3, we mark World Press Freedom Day.  The United States joins with Afghanistan and the international community in celebrating the contributions of free media to the advancement of human dignity, liberty and prosperity worldwide.  Freedom of the media is the hallmark of a free society. Wherever media freedom is under siege, all other human rights are under threat.

We take this opportunity to recognize, honor, and underscore the essential role of independent media in fostering and protecting freedom of expression and democratic principles – rights guaranteed by both the U.S. and Afghan constitutions.

In the United States, we hold press freedom as a fundamental component of our democratic fabric, enshrined in the First Amendment to our Constitution.  Afghans are equally fortunate to have an inviolable right to freedom of expression written into their Constitution. It is our strong belief that a free and unfettered media is necessary for a democracy to thrive.

On this important occasion, we express our solidarity with independent media in Afghanistan and all corners of the world, recalling journalists who have lost their lives and sacrificed their safety, and recognize and honor those who fight against repressive regimes targeting those who seek to further open discourse.

In our 21st century world, the free flow of information and ideas within countries and across international borders can be a powerful force for understanding and positive change.  Independent print, broadcast, and online media serve as indispensable sources of fact and opinion.  An independent media exposes abuses of authority, fights corruption, challenges assumptions, and provides a healthy outlet for the peaceful airing of concerns and ideas.  A free media is essential to an informed citizenry.  Without media freedom, there can be no democracy.  A free media also is key to creating the climate of transparency and accountability necessary to sustain development.

In Afghanistan, substantial fundamental progress has been made.  Today, Afghanistan has over 100 TV channels, 250 radio channels and hundreds of print publications.  News outlets are investing in social media now more than ever, not only because it represents the future but because Afghans increasingly realize the importance of free expression.  Despite these advances, there is more work to be done to protect media freedom.

I would like to reaffirm the strong commitment of the United States to the cause of media freedom worldwide and to our media colleagues here in Afghanistan.  We will champion media freedom through our diplomatic efforts and through our exchange and assistance programs, working in partnership with non-governmental organizations.  On World Press Freedom Day and throughout the year, we will stand in solidarity with courageous men and women of the media who sometimes risk persecution for exercising and defending the fundamental right to freedom of expression.